Hand : Tool

My favorite tools are the two I was born with: my hands. One of the great things about hand work is that you don’t have to restrict yourself to a single task, as you are almost forced to with a manufactured tool. Your hand is adaptable. Consider weeding: You can pull your fingers through the top inch or so of soil, breaking up the rain-compacted surface, and then, with the same movement of the wrist, but a slight realignment of the fingers, smooth it out again. If, in your haste, you bump a newly set transplant, your hand, unlike the fast-moving, sharp-edged hoe—which would shear off a tomato or pepper seedling as if it were merely another weed—recognizes it as …

ShepherdHand : Tool

Why I Hate Roto-Tillers

Statistically, one of the most dangerous occupations in this country is agriculture, and the reason (if you forget the pesticide exposure many farmers must endure) is the machinery. To work safely with power machinery requires that one’s attention be on safety—on the machine, that is—as much as on the work itself. This is—no surprise—the same basic, humane argument I have against pesticides: When your thoughts have to dwell on protecting yourself and others (including the plants) from accidental injury rather than on the task at hand—on that task’s meaning and context, and on new ways that it could be done better—you have sold your human birthright and become merely an extension of the technology. For me, that is a cosmic …

ShepherdWhy I Hate Roto-Tillers

The Many Uses of Shade Cloth

The forecast this morning was not good: severe thunderstorms, strong winds, possible quarter size hail, and maybe even a derecho. What most concerned me (aside from how far behind I am on my successions) is the hail. The tomatoes, after getting frosted and then scorched are finally looking lush, and the last thing I need is to have them knocked down by hail. So as soon as it got light I went out to the garage and got my row cover hoops and shade cloth. I use a lot of shade cloth here in the summer; almost as much as the row covers I use in fall and spring — and at times I use both in tandem if I need to. …

ShepherdThe Many Uses of Shade Cloth